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I used to be a fan of the power nap. Several years ago I read that napping for about an hour a day could provide quick bursts of brain waves that have been linked to better memory retention — and that’s all the excuse I needed to grab an occasional nap.
But in more recent years, naps have gotten a bad reputation because of their effects on heart health.
In 2020, an analysis of 20 nap studies found a connection between daytime napping and cardiovascular disease. One published in 2022, discovered that frequent napping may be a stroke warning. And still another found that if you’re depending on naps to make up for sleepless nights, you’re still losing out.
Getting good sleep matters — so much so that the American Heart Association (AHA) recently revised Life’s Simple 7 to Life’s Essential 8 (a checklist for lifelong good health).
The new version acknowledges the growing body of research showing how people who get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night are better able to manage various aspects of their heart health — and how shortchanging that can have dire consequences you should know about… especially if you’re a napper.
Hypertension, cardiovascular disease and sleep duration
Sleep duration is known to affect blood pressure and can increase the risk of hypertension. So a team of researchers decided to evaluate the connection between sleep duration and the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD) using data collected on adults middle-aged and older.
Participants were separated into a hypertension group and a non-hypertension group. There was also a CVD group and a non-CVD group. All participants underwent follow-up for an average of 6.5 years, during which any stroke or cardiac event was tracked.
In addition to nighttime sleep duration, researchers evaluated how often participants took naps, total day and night sleep duration and the percentage of naps in total sleep duration. Here’s what they found:
- According to the study results, middle-aged and older adults who reported sleep duration of less than 6 hours and those with a high nap ratio (at least 0.4) were at risk of hypertension. Men 60 years and older with a high nap ratio saw a higher risk of hypertension.
- As for CVD, risk was elevated in participants who had a sleep duration of less than 6 hours a night, those who had a total sleep duration less than 6 hours, and those who had a nap duration of less than 0.5 hours. Women 60 years and older who slept for less than 6 hours also were at increased risk of CVD.
There were some limitations to the study. The only correlations that could be obtained were between hypertension or CVDs and nap, sleep duration at night, total sleep duration and nap ratio. Also, there may have been bias since some variables were self-reported.
The problem with naps: shortening your nighttime sleep duration
These study results show if you’re 45 years of age or older, it’s better for you to get more sleep at night instead of taking a long afternoon nap.
To improve nighttime sleep, the AHA recommends you take steps to clean up your sleep hygiene as best you can. These include keeping your phone away from your bedside, dimming your devices at night to reduce blue light exposure and blocking device notifications overnight so you don’t get woken up.
Consider these tips as well to get better sleep:
- Resistance exercise has been shown to increase sleep time by an average of 40 minutes. But never exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Exercising then could make it harder to fall asleep.
- Whether you’re three or 43, having a bedtime routine can help you sleep better. Here are 4 pillars of a good bedtime routine to help you sleep better than a toddler.
- A healthy gut microbiome is essential to produce serotonin — a key player in our sleep/wake cycle. Probiotics and prebiotics can balance gut bacteria and support serotonin production.
- Rule out sleep apnea. Signs include waking frequently during the night, gasping for air, having dry mouth or snoring. If you suspect sleep apnea, tell your doctor.
- If you have overactive bladder, or BPH, stop drinking anything at least 2 hours before bedtime to avoid frequent bathroom trips overnight.
If you do all this and still struggle to get more than 6 hours of nighttime sleep, an occasional afternoon nap may be helpful — as long as it’s done strategically…
Take your nap early in the afternoon since napping after 3 p.m. can interfere with your nighttime sleep. Nap in a dark, quiet place with a comfortable temperature and few distractions. And keep your nap between 10 and 20 minutes, since the longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Life’s Essential 8 — American Heart Association
Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults — Mayo Clinic